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India-UK FTA: Committee of Secretaries meet to iron out tricky parts

Mint | 20 October 2023

India-UK FTA: Committee of Secretaries meet to iron out tricky parts

NEW DELHI : The committee of secretaries (CoS) met on Thursday to iron out tricky parts of the India-UK free trade agreement (FTA) in the run up to the finalization of the deal next month, a person aware of the development said.

As both countries inch closer to signing the agreement, discussions have focused on contentious parts such as intellectual property rights (IPR), rules of origin and bilateral investment treaties (BIT).

The meeting of the so-called committee of secretaries comes at a time when the two sides have shifted gear to holding weekly negotiations. New Delhi is looking to iron out the finer details of the deal which requires multiple levels of inter-ministerial commitments — ranging from the finance ministry to the food processing ministry.

Talks on IPR are crucial as India is the world’s largest provider of generic drugs. Cheap generics comprise 70-80% of the domestic market and are crucial to the well-being of the aging Indian population. The UK, as a leader in life science innovation, is seeking strong IPR protection. But its mammoth state-run health system is also dependent on Indian generics to keep costs down.

Trade between the countries increased to $20.36 billion in 2022-23 from $17.5 billion in 2021-22. India’s main exports are ready-made garments and textiles, gems and jewellery, engineering goods, petroleum and petrochemical products, transport equipment, spices, machinery and instruments, pharmaceuticals and marine products.

British exports include precious and semi-precious stones, ores and metal scraps, engineering goods, professional instruments other than electronics, chemicals and machinery.

In the services sector, the UK is the largest market in Europe for Indian IT services. In the field of investment, too the UK is one of the top investors in India. In 2022-23, India received $1.74 billion in foreign direct investment from the UK as against $1 billion in 2021-22.

Between April 2000 and March 2023, investments stood at $33.9 billion. Under such pacts, two trading partners significantly reduce or eliminate customs duties on a number of goods traded between them, besides easing norms to promote the trade in services and investments.

 source: Mint